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A series of about 39 “suspicious fires/arsons” in Babbitt and the Superior National Forest in the summer and fall of 2011 prompted separate investigations by the U.S. Forest Service, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the DNR and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, and led to a joint investigation in May 2012. Pole cameras were set up, GPS tracking devices were used and cellphone records were obtained under court orders. Two searches were made of Scharber’s residence and 34 people were interviewed.
The breakthrough in the case came in December 2011, when the owner of the Mattila Birch Lake Resort saw Scharber emerge from behind a storage shed and garage, claiming to have gone there to urinate. But the area was so remote, Dunne wrote, that Scharber’s claim did not make sense, and after he left, the owner followed footprints in the snow and found a gasoline can behind the building.
The owner immediately called authorities.
Days later, having learned that the owner had approached police, Scharber returned to retrieve a propane torch he had left behind the building, according to Dunne’s memorandum.
Scharber will be sentenced April 10 in Duluth by U.S. District Judge John Tunheim.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224
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